Rekha has cleared her Class X exam from the UP board, results of which were announced recently. She has achieved what no member of her 2.5 lakh-strong community -- the Musahar (rat-catchers) -- in the area could do so far.
"Im very happy," said Rekha, a resident of the Musahar Basti under Ayar gram panchayat in Harahua block of Varanasi, the Lok Sabha constituency of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Nursing a dream to study further, at least obtaining a graduation degree in arts, the girl said she wanted to become a teacher.
"Although the idea of working for my community and the locals is good, I feel more like becoming a teacher," she said.
Rekhas father, Angal, wore a confused smile, not sure as to how big his daughters’ achievement was.
"Yes, I am happy. Everybody around looks happy, so I am also happy," he said.
The girl scored a little over 63 per cent marks. "My writing is poor. I think I lost some marks because of that," said 16-year-old Rekha, still trying to absorb her overwhelming achievement.
As Rekha showed her marks to his father, who does not know how to read or write as his wife, the mans eyes filled with tears and a joyous embarrassment.
"What do I have to see in this," he asked his daughter, who told him that was her ticket to sit in Class XI.
Angal, a daily wage labourer and father to five children, was now worried about future education expenses of her eldest daughter but certain that he wanted her to study.
While local community folks were happy over her breaking the ceiling, Rekhas mother was out to collect wood.
"I had asked her that today my result will be out, stay at home. She said khana bhi to banana hai(food needs to be arranged too)," Rekha said, instructing her younger brother to go out and bring their mother back.
Shobhnath, a human rights activist working for the uplift of the community, said its a path breaking achievement.
"I know what difficulties Rekha faced to see this day. At a place where you have never seen people around you, people from your community study, it was natural that she opted out. But she sustained and has gained distinction no one in her community in the block, which has around 14 villages, has," said Shobhnath, associated with PVCHR.
The Musahar community is listed as Scheduled Caste in Bihar, Jharkhand, Odisha, Uttar Pradesh, Tripura and West Bengal.
As per Census 2011, the communitys population in UP stood over 2.5 lakh, 1.23 lakh of them females.
The total literates in the community stood at 49,287, while illiterates at 2,07,848, as per the Census.
A backward and socially marginalised community, the Musahar find work as industrial labourers, while a majority still works as daily wagers and farm workers.
The women of the Musahar community in this area make disposable plates dona out of mahua leaves.
"But the business is dwindling and nearing end since the plastic and fibre cups and plates came. Also, at Rs 2 for 80 dona, its economically not viable anymore," said a local.
In 2005, PVCHR-Jan Mitra Nyas-PVCHR initiated breakfast project for education with support of Rajdulari Foundation and Parul Sharma of Sweden. Then Indo -German Society of Remschied, Germany established building for ICDS center and one room in Primary Government School. Then Rekha received two thousands rupees and a cycle for going college. Cycle supported by JMN-PVCHR with support of 200 Swedish donors and Parul Sharma. Now CRY-JMN partnership (http://www.cry.org/projects/jan-mitra-nyas) adopted this village, so Shobhnath of PVCHR is continually involved to motivate her. Ms. Parul Sharma declared scholarship to Rekha for further study.
“There is paradigm shift for empowerment of girls, emergence of girls’ power and union of different communities of Shudra and ati-shudra.” says Shruti Nagvanshi, managing trustee of PVCHR and JMN.
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